Stories Worth Sharing This Memorial Day

In between the road trips, barbecues and pool parties that we have come to associate with Memorial Day, many people do pause to reflect on what the day personally means for them.

Several of our customers have shared with us photos of family members who have served and so we put together a photographic tribute to these individuals (below). Behind each picture, we know, is a story of courage, sacrifice, love and more.

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These stories deserve to be told and many family historians are trying to ensure that they are. Some make their way into public archives and curated exhibits for local historical societies and museums around the country. The pictures and stories they feature tell us about experiences – both on the war and home front – during some of the biggest military conflicts in U.S. history.

Here are some snapshots from a few of them…

Much has been written about the important role that women played to support the wars. Here are some great picture from the New York Public Library showing a woman working the assembly line during World War II.

This YWCA poster from World War I depicts a female switchboard operator at work.

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Women known as "Hello Girls" operating the switchboards were critical to victory in World War I. Fire, retreat, stand down—these commands were sent by phone. ☎ Operating the phones was demanding, requiring quick thinking, speedy hands, and tolerance for rude treatment. Serving in France, the operators also "withstood submarine warfare, cannon fire, influenza, aerial bombardment, and petty-minded bureaucrats," as author Elizabeth Cobbs puts it. This poster by artist Clarence F. Underwood for the Y.W.C.A. United War Work Campaign depicts a member of the U.S. Army Signal Corps Female Telephone Operators Unit seated at a switchboard. Follow the hashtag #StoriesOfService today for more stories from the Great War shared by over 80 museums, libraries, and archives around the world in honor of the 100th anniversary of the end of fighting in World War I. #WWI #WW1 #FWW #WorldWar1 #WorldWarI #philanthropy #MilitaryHistory #FirstWorldWar #WomensHistory #HistTech #HistSTEM #Typography #PosterArt #GraphicDesign #AdvertisingHistory #SignalCorps

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There are also poignant images of those waiting at home while loved ones were away on war duty. This one from the WWII museum in New Orleans features a framed photo that a crew member of PT-305 – a patrol torpedo boat that is now restored and on display at the museum – kept with him the whole time he was in service.

Combat conditions were often brutal as this photo and piece of trivia about WWII bomber crewmen (courtesy the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force) reminds us.

When you’re far away from home, a little bit of downtime can be a good thing, as this languid portrait from the National WWI Museum and Memorial indicates.

There are also some not so well known stories behind famous photos. For example, this iconic WWII shot from Times Square on V-J day was taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt, an American photojournalist of German descent. What most people may not know is that Eisenstaedt actually served in the German Army during WWI but emigrated to the United States in 1935 due to oppression in Nazi Germany. He and his family settled in New York City where he soon became known for his work behind the camera, primarily for Life magazine.

Outside of museums, there are other efforts to gather oral histories of people who have fought in or lived through wars. For example, the National Home Front Project run by Washington College in Maryland is scrambling to get as many stories from WWII veterans and civilians as they can before it’s too late. The primary goal is to document as much as possible about the experiences of people at home during the war.

The project has students doing the bulk of the interviewing and recording. And that approach – of getting nineteen year olds to sit down to talk with ninety year olds – is what sets it apart.

As Adam Goodheart, one of the historians overseeing the project, says: “An older person often is more comfortable sharing stories with people from that very young generation than they are with people closer in age to them. When they sit down with a group of people who look a lot like their grandchildren, they have a sense of passing along their story to a new generation.”

Click here to read/hear one of the stories…

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Source: The National Home Front Project

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